Back-to-school issues and co-parenting: are they in sync?

Are you a Colorado parent who is divorced and living day-to-day according to a court-ordered parenting plan? Your parenting plan may have been created in negotiation with your ex-spouse and approved by the court or it may have been developed by the judge if the two of you were not able to agree or if the judge did not approve your agreement.

In Colorado, the parenting plan governs the allocation of parental responsibilities (called custody and visitation in many other states), including division of parenting time, residential arrangements and decision-making authority between the parents after divorce.

Ideally, the parenting plan will include specific provisions concerning the children’s schedules, how transportation will be provided by the parents, how child exchanges will occur, how the parents will communicate about school and personal matters important to the child, how disputes will be resolved between them and so on.

With school on the horizon, now is the time to take a hard look at your parenting plan to be sure it is still in your children’s best interest and that it works with other family factors. For example:

  • Should the child change his or her school (or school district) and how would that impact parenting time and transportation needs? What if a new school is private and would require new or increased tuition? What if tuition has increased too much at the existing school to be sustained?
  • Does the child want to begin a new activity that will require parental time, transportation and money?
  • Has the child reached his or her teen years and decided that he or she wants to see changes relating to his or her primary residence or how much time he or she spends with one of the parents? Are the teen’s requests in his or her best interest and should they be accommodated?
  • Is there a need to get a car for a teen driver and who will provide it, pay insurance and for repairs?
  • Who will pay for back-to-school clothes and supplies?

The potential issues that may arise over time in relation to each new school year are endless. It may be that with a little communication and creativity your concerns over back-to-school matters can be resolved informally between you. Here are some tips that may help in this regard.

However, if the issues are bigger than informal cooperation can resolve or if you just are not making progress, you may need to look at renegotiating your parenting plan or going back to court to request a modification. For example, the original parenting plan may give decision-making responsibilities regarding education or extracurricular activities to both parents, but you may feel that you are much better equipped to make these decisions yourself.

We have previously discussed in this forum ways to make a parenting plan more likely to promote harmony and working relationships. Keeping these kinds of solutions in mind when renegotiating your parenting plan can be equally helpful, maybe even more so since you have tried out one parenting plan and can see how the next one could be better crafted to meet your needs and those of your children.

Talk to a family lawyer about what options are available to you to resolve these new family issues, whether they can be informally resolved such as through your attorneys or perhaps using mediation, or require more formal negotiations or a return to court.